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Excluding the clerk from the meeting

0 votes
Our clerk is quite sensitive and has a history of bringing grievances against councillors.
The Personnel Committee recently made a recommendation to the full Parish Council to increase the Clerk's hours. A Councillor asked the Clerk to leave the meeting whilst this was discussed but she refused, saying there was no provision in the Standing Orders to exclude the Clerk (only the press and public) and no conflict of interest as she has no voice. Many Councillors who opposed the recommendation then refused to comment, and abstained from the vote because they did not want to upset her, which made a mockery of the vote.
Was the Clerk correct? She also insists on clerking the Personnel Committee which means it is difficult to have an open conversation about her performance.
asked by (1.7k points)

5 Answers

0 votes
This appears to be the classic dilemma (when I say classic, I mean in the very limited sphere of PCs) of who  is actually the employer and who is the employee.
There simply isn’t any other organisation (outside of a doctrinally pure (but practically perverse since there is no actual example of a doctrinally pure communist system)) that would be so terrified, incapable and unwilling to actually take charge of what is - by any measure - a low level administrative employee.
We keep hearing of clerks making all sorts of dictates - from the weird, to the perverse, to the patently bizarre.
Maybe it’s not actually the clerks that are at fault.

Maybe it really is councillors that are incapable of very basic HR function of employing (usually) 1 or 2 people.
Your answer in this case is fairly obvious. The PC chair or the HR chair, or the person / group nominated to ‘manage’ this employee, tell them that they are not required at a HR meeting and / or the part of a PC meeting where their T&Cs are being considered.
answered by (6.3k points)
“...What’s wrong with wages being independently set ?”

Part of a solution there. Another part could be:

It’s a part time, work from home, flexible role with the opportunity to work for other employers (still referring to PC)
Many of the poorly performing, unprofessional and inappropriate tendencies would very quickly evaporate if clerks were IR35 rather than cosseted in the T&Cs of the civil service.
In a way you're right as the focus tends to be on smaller parishes - but some are as big as towns, require managing multiple staff and the clerk is expected to be multi-hatted (including finance, HR, project management etc). There's total justification for some - not many -  to be well paid. They're very differetn roles but still get called clerks which is a bit bizarre anyway.

Swindon area is a good example - a relatively small town like Wootton Bassett has 16 staff, some of the parishes in Swindon have around 20 staff with larger precepts. If you don't think the clerk of those deserves to earn well for those roles then that's a bit baffling - especially when compared to other industries where pay is higher for signifcantly less responsibility and often smaller skillsets.
Reply to clerk975:

I have intentionally set, maintained and reiterated my discussion point at smaller / rural PARISH council levels.  I would, obviously, acknowledge that town and county councils are scaled up versions and with that scaling up comes increased supervisory responsibility.  But that is not the point under discussion despite several instances of those roles being introduced as example.  The example is not under debate - the relevance of changing the parameters in an attempt to validate a point is simply a distraction.

Let's not pretend that there is some kind of unique, mysterious or high level competence required of the clerk role - regardless of the size / scale of the council.  It is a classic admin role - no big deal.

We've wandered well off track from the original post - which, incidentally, pretty much sums up the frustration of many rural parish councils where the clerk - I think we have arrived at an agreed +/- £15/hr rate - is behaving in a manner which far and away exceeds their authority and status.

It is that example of (yes, low level admin functionary) exceeding their authority and status - combined with cllrs that may be inexperienced / incapable (or suffering from coercive behaviour from the clerk) that really is the point under discussion.
Letsbehonest (but not necessarily correct) In response to who? ParishClerk2020 or PariahClerk2020? Basic.
That’s it? That’s all you’ve got?  Nothing original or even the ability to see the irony?

It was an autocorrect from spell checker - it wasn’t unnoticed, I actually thought it probably more suited....

Go back to sleep....
0 votes
As the Personnel Committee is a formal committee, it does need to have a 'Clerk' to record the minutes but a Councillor could undertake that role for matters that relate to the actual Clerk.  From your post, I assume that the Clerk wanted to have her hours increased so surely to grease the decision wheel it would have made sense that she left the room when requested.  It seems about random that she didn't.

You mention that your Clerk is 'sensitive' and has a history of grievances but there is no indication as to whether they were legitimate issues being raised; they may well have been.  Whilst I agree that some Clerks are truly awful at their jobs, there is sadly many instances of bullying by councillors against staff.  It goes both ways and you often find that Councillors who consider themselves 'volunteers' are unwilling to take on the role of an employer and all the challenges that entails.
answered by (16.8k points)
I can totally relate to a 'sensitive' clerk. Ours can take offence at the drop of a hat, when none was intended. Nothing that ever led to a grievance though, thank goodness. It can be quite tiring trying to handle someone with kid gloves because you do not intend any offence but know it can be taken by the slightest remark!
I suspect the clerk knew some Councillors were resistant to the increase. We were in a ridiculous position where some Councillors were emailing before the meeting saying 'here's what I think but I won't be able to say it in the meeting or the Clerk will cry'. Her presence in the meeting effectively silenced them.

I can't comment on all previous grievances, but the ones I am aware of were not legitimate, however they upset the councillors and led to their resignation (one referred in her resignation letter to being hauled in front of a kangaroo court).
I have been told by longer standing councillors that the clerk keeps a little black book of perceived slights.
0 votes
A possible / partial solution here would be to hold a ballot rather than a vote.  You'd still have the potential issue of free and open debate being curtailed by the presence of the clerk but at least the vote could be held anonymously so as to avoid the potential for the employee possibly to victimise Cllr's that had not supported the vote.
Sad state of affairs.....
answered by (6.3k points)
0 votes
If she is making unwarranted accusations against elected officials then she needs to tackled about it, when it happened to me I self reported myself to the Monitoring Officer
I know a Councillor who was subjected to similar complaints and when they spoke to the Chair they were told the Chairs role was “ to protect the Clerk “

Councils are being held to ransom because they are scared of “ employment rights “
answered by (4.9k points)
0 votes
I don’t wish to wade in but I think the role is changing and the use of technology is catching up with the clerks role. Councillors are supposed to get best value for money as is the clerk. It can be very difficult in a business to undertake a organisational change and when it comes to councils even harder.

many clerks have their own routines and way of doing things but they should also be aware of working smarter not faster as the workload / parameters change.

Councillors on the other hand often bring new ways of working because they are often constantly changing in own employment.

You may find that the clerk may be sensitive to change and being outside their comfort zone with new processes but I would advise you to overhauling the role before increasing the hours. This serves two purposes if the hours need to be increased it gives the justification or if you find systems to help the clerk, it may make the job less stressful
answered by (5.5k points)
Thank you, we are also introducing improved systems such as online booking systems for our village hall.
Can recommend Scribe to do accounts, hall booking, allotments and cemeteries

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